Students thank scholarship donors for helping them pursue their passions

At the annual Scholarship Donor Recognition Luncheon, UM students gathered in a collective show of thanks to the philanthropists who have helped make their college education a reality.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 20, 2014) — Residents of Siguatepeque, Honduras, have probably never heard of the Bowman Foster Ashe Scholarship. But in an indirect way, the University of Miami financial award, named for the institution’s first president, has lessened their dependence on rainwater and brought clean drinking water to their taps.

That’s because the scholarship helped industrial engineer Caitlin Augustin pay for her education at UM, where, as an undergraduate, she started a chapter of Engineers without Borders, spearheading in 2008 a project for the small Honduran town that resulted in a four-and-a-half-kilometer water pipeline. Today, the pipeline is still flowing, and Siguatepeque townspeople are grateful.

But not as appreciative as Augustin. Scholarships have allowed her to soar, and without them, she said, her academic career at UM would have been grounded.

Wednesday, at UM’s annual Scholarship Donor Recognition Luncheon held in the Student Activities Center ballroom, Augustin joined hundreds of students—from biology to business, chemistry to communication, and economics to engineering majors—in thanking the many philanthropists who have made college a reality by providing financial assistance.

“Scholarships allowed me the flexibility and opportunities to explore my passions and interests,” said Augustin, who earned an industrial engineering degree from UM in 2010 and is now working on her Ph.D., with a fellowship from the Abess Center for Ecosystem and Science Policy helping her along the way.

With students seated among donors whose generosity directly funds their education, UM President Donna E. Shalala told benefactors that their support provides “life-changing opportunities” for students, many of whom are among the first in their families to attend college.

As UM’s Momentum2 campaign churns along, Senior Vice President for University Advancement and External Affairs Sergio M. Gonzalez noted that scholarships are a priority in the $1.6 billion fundraising effort, with $210 million earmarked in that category. So far, UM has raised more than $152 million for scholarships—funds that have allowed the institution to create 44 new endowed financial awards, Gonzalez said.

UM Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc echoed Shalala’s and Gonzalez’s sentiment that scholarships are critical, noting that financial issues remain a major obstacle for students in completing college. Declining federal and state support for education, a poor economy, and the stagnation of incomes have compounded the problem, resulting in unmet needs for students and families.

The University, said LeBlanc, has been able to offset some of that need, awarding more than $100 million in financial aid annually. He praised donors for providing some of that support, and he inspired students in the audience, telling them that college graduates, on average, earn higher salaries and are less likely to be unemployed.

Hammond Scholarship recipient Mischael Cetoute, with his parents Marie and Jean.

Mischael Cetoute, a political science and Africana studies major who is the recipient of the Ronald A. Hammond Scholarship, spoke to donors as an example of a student who is benefiting from their generosity. His parents, Haitian immigrants who came to the United States in the early 1970s, have always struggled to provide a better life for their children. “And they’ve been successful,” Cetoute said. But now, with Cetoute’s mother, Marie, bringing the only steady income into the household, his scholarship has allowed him to continue pursuing his dream.

Said Cetoute: “One thing I know is that I’m going to change the world.”

Robert C. Jones Jr. can be reached at 305-284-1615.

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Students thank scholarship donors for helping them pursue their passions

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